A few days ago, a video where a man expresses unflinching attraction to transgender women went viral on social media and it’s causing a lot of debate and discussion about trans attraction and whether or not the man in the video is a “chaser”. The short street-interview style video starts with a cis man asking another cis man how much he’d have to be paid to “suck a cock”. The interviewee responds with a follow up question asking to clarify if the person with a penis is a cis man or a transgender woman. For him, when it comes to cis men, there’s no chance in hell it’d happen, but for transgender women; not only would he do it for free, but he “already has”. See the video below.
Conversations about trans attraction are very hard to have because the opinion people have of these relationships tends to lead to the social understanding of how they function. Most people discussing relationships between cis men and transgender women adhere to one narrow conclusion: transgender women are men and the men who sleep with them, gay. In fact, one of the tertiary conversations being had right now by gay gender critical folks is that this man is homophobic for not identifying himself as bisexual or gay. It is, however, important to note that this man never once identifies himself as heterosexual, that is simply assumed of him because he’s a cis man. That aside, quite frequently transgender women, like myself, are left to defend the sexualities of these men while they remain largely silent and closeted about their attraction to transgender women. Transgender women are often seen as unfaithful narrators of their own experiences, but I’m going to push against that in this article and have a discussion about trans attraction and chasers from the perspective of a transgender woman who absolutely has the ability to speak with authority about the men who have pursued her all throughout her trans life.
When you’re a transgender woman, you become acutely aware of the fact that attraction to you is often going to be politicized and if you’re, unfortunately, attracted solely to men, this often means navigating through the murky waters of trans attraction, a man’s heterosexuality, as well as the ways your sexual capital shifts through your transition. The impression I get is that most cis people have a very hard time comprehending why a person would ever be attracted to a transgender person; afterall, transgender people have been firmly established in our society as strange oddities that could never possibly be loved without some darker desire or intent, and cis bodies have been established all our lives as the only valid ones worthy of love. Because of this, a lot of people seem to conclude that the cis men who pursue transgender women are simply confused men who truly desire sex with cis men. When these men blatantly state their interest in a pre-op trans woman’s genitalia, it’s hard to argue against that point when so many of us have defined our sexuality not by gender, but by sex. The closest I’ll get to validating that understanding is acknowledging that most of the men who actively pursue transgender women are indeed attempting to figure something out about themselves. Transgender women are an oddity to most of these men and a very uncommon one. For that reason, most men who are interested in transgender women will likely never have the chance to sexually explore with one before determining if they are attracted to them beyond their sexual fantasies. As we all know, often fantasies don’t align with reality and many men will sit with undetermined feelings about their sexuality and their attractions until they’ve had certain experiences with transgender women. Often times, it’s their quest for sexual exploration and the path they tend to choose that gets some of these men labled “chasers”.
Back in the day, I used to mercilessly grill the men I was speaking to on dating apps about how exactly they discovered they were attracted to transgender women, and I would often get some variation of these two responses:
“One day I was flipping through a porno mag and I saw an ad for transsexuals in the back and it turned me on. So I started looking at trans porn, and started trying to connect with trans women online.”
“I was at this club one night and I met this absolutely gorgeous woman. She took me back to her place and that’s when she told me that she was transgender. I was hesitant at first, and nothing happened, but she was really pretty so now I’m curious if it’s something I could be into.”
I obviously got more than these two responses, but these were the most common ones. Not to lean on a binary, but I often find that these two groups of men tend to clearly show a delineation between men who are chasers and men who aren’t. The first group of men tend to purely see transgender women through the lens of fetishism and pornography and they have a hard time comprehending otherwise. The second group quite often understands that transgender women are individuals first and their hesitation around pursuing transgender women is frequently related to not wanting to hurt a trans woman’s feelings. For me what helps differentiate these men is recognizing us as individuals.
For the most part, fetishism has always been easy for me to see because I am often fetishized for the exact opposite of what feels natural to me. Say you’re a man in that first group and you went online to seek out transgender porn. Black transgender women in porn are often presented as overly aggressive, dominant, well endowed with a fixation on “topping” white men. That has always been the complete opposite of who I am as a naturally submissive person, who, between you and I, couldn’t “top” even if they wanted to. When someone projects that image onto me, it’s easy to see that they are fetishizing me because it’s obvious that I could be literally any other black trans woman and they’d get the same experience. A lot of men who fetishize trans women have reacted very negatively to me telling them that, and it’s this that lets me know that they were only interested in their fantasy, not my reality. But for me, it’s that reaction that makes it clear that they are a fetishist, not their interest in my genitalia.
As I said earlier, society at large does indeed dismiss transgender women as men and the men who sleep with them as gay, but I know from my own personal experience that gay men have never been interested in me. I’m not sure all trans women can say that, but for me, I’ve always been overtly feminine and long before I accepted myself as a trans woman, people commonly saw me as a cis girl. So I don’t have any real history with gay men being attracted to me. I entered my legal adulthood well into my transition and while I’ve read a lot about queer dating, I have functioned pretty exclusively within a heterosexual context through my romantic life. Something I’ve thought about recently is how I move through the world as though it has already changed as opposed to embracing the narratives projected onto me before it does. Perhaps this is why I’ve been able to live a life where I am accepted as my gender everywhere I go; I’m not sure. But when it comes to this conversation, something that comes to mind is that we would not see transgender bodies, and by proxy the people who are attracted to them, as weird or fetishistic if we lived in a society that saw them as just as inherently valid as cis bodies. The idea of a man giving oral to a trans woman would seem normative in a society that viewed their relationship as a valid one. It’s pretty common for a partner to orally satisfy a partner and bring them to orgasm, but the image of a cis man giving a trans woman oral sex is politicized. Again, “Based Chaser” never said he was straight, but people on twitter are writing thread after thread about how much of a weirdo in denial he is all because he is a cis man who expressed an interest in a transgender woman’s genitalia publicly, without shame. I’m not going to pretend we aren’t often sex negative as a society, but I remember when people ridiculed DJ Kahled for not wanting to give oral sex to his wife. We accept these things are largely normative and not fetishes when we discuss cis people, but they transform into fetishism when one of the people is transgender. For me, this sends the message that there would be no possible way to love a transgender person’s body without fetish and that is, in my opinion, an incredibly questionable position that probably wouldn’t feel valid in a society that embraced transgender women’s bodies as valid. However, quite frequently it’s that specific interest in their body parts that, alone, leads trans women to conclude that they’re being fetishized.
“Chasers” are often found on transgender dating apps or commonly in places where transgender women are expected to be. To be completely blunt with you, these men often tend to be the sort of men who really struggle with cis women and they find transgender women easier to manipulate. For me a “chaser” isn’t simply a man who is interested in transgender women; it’s more so that they have an obsessive, methodical way of pursuing transgender women that satiates their fetish for transness. A lot of these men fetishize the steep power difference between trans women and cis, heterosexual men. Many transgender women on dating sites use them as a source of validation. For many especially younger, newly transitioning trans women, a straight man expressing interest in you is flattering and reinforcing of your gender. They say to themselves “how could he be attracted to me, as a straight man if I weren’t feminine and passable?”. These men are aware of the fact that trans women are so rarely flattered in their daily lives, so they approach trans women anticipating that they will be insecure enough to easily give them what they want with very little effort on their end. Men who are unimpressive to most cis women can very easily find an insecure, gorgeous transgender woman who wasn’t socialized to see her body as special enough not to be shared with every guy who says something nice to them. Some of these “chasers” become rather addicted to these sorts of exchanges and they are almost always done in secret.
It’s true that chasers fetishize transness, but when you’ve dealt with them, you understand that it tends to be a bit more than that. Many of these men fetishize the position transgender women are put in and they almost rely on it to entertain their particular fetish. Like most fetishes, this interest of theirs is one they do not share and, would never want to share, so these men don’t ever genuinely entertain the idea of taking a transgender woman out or publicly claiming that they have an interest in them (unless it’s tied to a financial or social gain, which is rare beyond the context of sex work). It’s been probably over 10 years since I’ve given my time or energy to men who move like this and the one thing that got them to really leave me alone was requiring that everyone I share my body with be confident enough to sit with me in public. When I was still entertaining chasers, I remember there being “relationships” I had that never left the four corners of a man’s apartment. Every time we’d see each other, he’d swear that it would be the time he’d take me out on a regular date, but that time would never come. Instead what would happen is they would flatter my fragile ego, I’d feel comfortable near them and he’d ultimately get to have sex with me while desperately hiding it from everyone. While I never intentionally entertained men like this, many of these men are married or partnered with cis women who frequently had no clue that their partners even had an interest in trans women. These men got off on the fact that they were secretly having sex with transgender women and no one knew anything about it. For some of these men this becomes almost an addiction. They’re having sex with an undesirable, and the fact that they’re sleeping with a dreg of society turns them on. It’s that thrill that becomes their fetish. The secrecy is part of the fetish most of the time. To be clear, this is quite different from people who are simply exploring and aren’t quite ready to “come out” yet about their attractions. Those people are trying to figure themselves out, while a chaser knows what he likes and tends to get off on the fact that no one knows what he’s doing, which is very different, but can feel the same. It’s for that reason that I don’t give my time or body to either type of man.
Like many people, I struggled with the idea that a person could ever love or truly be attracted to a transgender person without fetishizing them, but age and reflection have taught me that this is a position that embraces my otherness and the, often misgendering, narratives that are frequently projected onto me. As I said, these conversations are frustrating because so frequently transgender women are left to have them on their own, with zero input from the cis men who pursue us. If we are invested in a better social understanding of trans attraction, that’s going to require that some of these men step forward and express trans attraction in a confident, unflinching way. A way where you can tell that their attraction can never be used against them. In a way where it’s clear that when they say they’re attracted to women, that trans women are included in that description. The very premise of this video relies on this idea that there is something inherently repulsive about a cis man fallating a penis. The man asking anticipated the men he interviewed would be heterosexual; and would be so disgusted by the question that they’d either reject the premise entirely, or give a large number to show how straight they were. But here you had a guy whose reaction wasn’t to dismiss the idea, but to specify that he doesn’t have a cissexist view of bodies. His response is being criticized because it goes off of a heteronromative script. It’s the response of someone who, like me, has examined society’s often incorrect conclusions about transgender women and decided to instead embrace transgender women as women, regardless of whether or not people agree with him or disagree with him. And it’s that degree of confidence and how little he seems to care about what other’s have to say about his sexuality that, in my view, would make him a healthy partner for a transgender woman.
So is “Based Chaser” a chaser? Based on this video, I’d say probably not. I can’t imagine a chaser feeling this comfortable discussing his experience with trans women with the world. His particular experience with trans women does not, in my opinion, make him a chaser. He might not be for me, personally, but that doesn’t mean his expressed experience and desires are fetishistic or “chaser”-like. He’s doing what more men should be doing: claiming his interest in trans women without a sign of shame. While I feel like that’s asking for the bare minimum, it’s still uncommon enough for me to understand why many trans women are fawning over him. I look forward to the day where men can state that they’re interested in transgender women without anyone blinking an eye. Until then, I’ll be right here writing about the complexities of it all.